Hope Remains

Yes, hope remains. Despite fires and smoke, extremely hazardous air quality, several days of evacuation orders: hope remains.

All the above add stress to the already stressful pandemic. Yet, hope remains.

One bit of good news, the Portland protests and riots took a break during the smoke and poor air quality. One less level of stress. Hope remains.

As we sat in our home, we talked a lot about preparedness when threatened by a natural disaster. What one thing would you take? It’s hard to say. You might not have time to remember what that thing is and then pick it up and go. But we did start a list of what we’d need to take with us. 

This is a new experience for us. The danger zones were a new experience for our firefighters, other responders, and those tracking the wildfires. These fires met up with a Santa Ana-type windstorm. The winds licked up the flames and moved more quickly than anyone expected.

Our county’s placement under a smoke advisory advised residents to stay inside with windows and doors closed tightly. Already tired of the pandemic quarantine, the idea of being closed within our home because of smoke was somewhat worse. Nothing could be seen before, behind, or beside us. It felt like living in a cocoon that wasn’t opening. Hope remained, and the rains came. And the smoke slowly left our valley.

While we talked and listened for alerts, I remembered a time we visited a forest in eastern Oregon only days after a raging wildfire had gone through it. Bob’s brother and his wife lived in Burns at the time and shortly after that fire we visited them for a weekend. They suggested we take a walk through the forest to see the fire’s devastation.

Green shoots breaking through charred debris surprised me. Tiny pine and fir trees were beginning life again in their home high atop a hill in this forest. Blackened and charred trees and ash were all around us. Tall trees remained but showed the effects of the heat and fire that had lapped at their trunks days before. At that moment, hope was also growing and shining brightly.

The memory of that trip and the walk into the burned forest created a spark of hope welling up within my heart. Not just for the renewal of the forests, but for the possibility of renewal in other ways:

  • bringing the raging wildfires under control and protecting those in harm’s way; 
  • recovery for the people who lost everything;
  • in our relationships with our brothers and sisters of all colors and ethnicities, all religions, and all lifestyle choices;
  • the discovery of a COVID vaccine and healing for those suffering from the virus; and 
  • peace in our world.

Now that I see that spark of hope, what am I doing with it? Sharing it with you and others!

What will you do with it? How can we all become united in spreading this hope?

We can think about these questions and write out our feelings about hope in a journal, a post, an essay, a poem, a song, and share it with others in the hope that they will catch the spark of hope and spread it, too

Via Bible.com

Featured Image Attribution: WhiskerFlowers from Pixabay

 

 

May Goodness Define Us

Two Sundays ago, during our live-streamed worship service, many left comments and greetings. Among them were the words in today’s post title: May goodness define us. A member of our congregation wrote these words for all to read. His choice of words jumped off the computer screen at me. And I knew at that moment what I wanted to do with them.
 
I wrote them out on a small Post-it note and placed it near my computer. When I felt judgmental about someone’s words or actions toward others, I’d read these words. And I’d stop myself from throwing out a quick rebuttal with four words: May goodness define us. Friends, it is working. 
 
Today I share them here in the hope of others doing the same. How you ask? By spreading thought-provoking reflection throughout the land. Here’s a suggestion to begin.
 
Take a few moments to look at the image above. Its creator calls it a photomontage of human faces.
 
Look closely and find one or more of the following in the image:
 
  • Young and old;
  • Black, white, and other colors representing a variety of ethnicities;
  • Male, female, LBGTQ+;
  • Doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, politicians, teachers, ministers and more;
  • Parents and grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins;
  • Some connected by DNA and a family tree;
  • Others connected by a relationship founded in friendship;
  • And the list could go on forever.
And yet, in the Creator’s eyes we are all the same. We are His children. 
 
Too often we judge others in haste. We get caught up in a short-tempered state of mind. Usually, we base our feelings on differences among us or as a means to stay in good standing with someone else. These actions are disgraceful, morally wrong, and vile. My words may sound harsh to you, but imagine how your words or actions sound or feel to the person you judge.
 
In order for goodness to define us, we must return to our center. We have to get back to the Source of light and life. Move through today’s crises and uncover a new justice and reality and allow goodness to define you. So dig deep to find where the light shines forth. It is the place where you can find the inherent beauty of those around you, whoever and wherever they are. And here we will celebrate the wholeness and unity in our diversity. From there perhaps we will find the peace we all long for.
 
In the Book of Micah, we read these words:
 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Featured image attribution: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Feeling Out of Touch?

Are you feeling out of touch these days? Here in Oregon, our pandemic guidelines label sheltering as “stay at home” since March 23, 2020, “until further notice.” But there are states where residents are no longer sheltering in place, or in what some call lockdown. 
 
But there are some in our communities who live alone 365 days each year. Others live in retirement or assisted living communities and yet live alone. Still, others are, because of disease or illness, isolated from the rest of us.
 
So, let’s think about feeling out of touch. Even though my husband and I live in the same house, there are times we each feel out of touch because of the pandemic. We can hug each other. Or touch the other’s hand. Toss a smile across the room.
 
But we can’t gather with our church family on Sundays or at other times during the week. Yes, we can see them during Zoom meetings and on Facebook Live. But it’s not the same as being able to see them “real time,” or share a hug, or shake hands in greeting. Bob is also missing out on his musical groups and friends. None of his groups — two community bands and our church choir — are meeting.
 
For me, it’s not so difficult as I’ve had a feeling of being out of touch for a while. During my struggle to overcome chronic pain and then surgery, I often felt out of touch. That cut a great hole in my people time.
 
I had friends with whom I met for coffee or tea, and now our only contact is through phone calls or text messages. Oh, how I miss them and our in-person visits. 
 
Our governor held a press conference this morning laying out Phase I of reopening Oregon. Believe me, if what I heard is correct, it’s going to be quite a bit longer than any of us believed or hoped in the beginning. But it isn’t the end of the world as I see it.
 
What I see is in the bigger picture. It’s not about ourselves, but about those with whom we make contact. There is that one person without symptoms who is a carrier of the coronavirus. He/she can infect more than one person in a day. That could mean an uptick in the number of people who contract the virus. 
 
The lesson in the bigger picture is this. As Americans, most of us have achieved much. We are able to live a good life in a safe home located near good schools with a beautiful family. Others of us planned well and live in retirement comfortably. We have no problem buying what we want when we want it. And therein lies the problem. We’ve grown too secure, perhaps even complacent.
 
COVID-19 has settled among us to teach us that we must face a personal slow down. And the slow down isn’t related to contracting the virus. The slow down is and has been imposed on us by our federal, state, and local governments. Is it a punishment? No, it’s a safety measure to save lives. Maybe we can’t eat out, go to movies, plan vacations right now.
 
We need to be patient and life will return to a semblance of the normalcy we once knew. Patience is a hard lesson, and most of us don’t like to practice it.
 
Yet, if we want personal contact with others, patience is the prescription we need right now. As Mary Poppins sings:
 
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
A Spoonful of Sugar lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company
 
Think of that “spoonful of sugar” as your dose of patience daily. If you can take a few minutes, call someone you know who lives alone and brighten his/her day. Write a note or send a card to someone who is always shut-in due to illness. Think about the goodness you have to share with others. Think of others and not so much about yourself. 
 
Above all, hold out hope for the day you hear you can find your semblance of normalcy by getting in touch with others.
 
Quote, Leo Buscaglia, power of touch, smile
 

Featured image attribution: Pezibear from Pixabay 

Day by Day

Day by day things are changing in miniscule and massive ways it seems. Especially in this pandemic state we find ourselves living in.  It is like spring changing in small ways day by day. And then one morning the tree outside your window is a burst of color.
 
Blossoms unfurl their petals. Trees turn blossoms into fruit. Grass pushes through the earth to create a bright green lawn. Buds are everywhere. Future blossoms on camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, peonies, tulips, daffodils, and more.
 
Some of the day by day changes aren’t so lovely as these. Let’s pull out a random change—I pick grocery shopping! Right about now I hate grocery shopping. Since Bob and I fall into an “at risk” category, our state guidelines suggest we stay home. This means ordering online to pickup what we need at Fred Meyer, the local Kroger-owned store. The store seems to have its system well organized and operating efficiently. For me, it is the ordering part that’s driving me a nuts.
 
About the time I have the order ready, something else pops up that we need. I rush to the computer to add it to our list. That happens again, again, and again. Then it’s the hassle of finding an open delivery date and time. Sometimes it can take several days to get locked in. Then the day scheduled for pick up arrives. You receive a text message letting you know what they’ve substituted or didn’t have at all! But the pickup itself is always a pleasant experience otherwise.
 
How much longer do I have to do this? Will I ever grow accustomed to it? It all rests on the restrictions set by our state government as COVID-19 peaks and flattens. We understand the opening of Oregon and its businesses will go slowly based on many matrices.
 
I’ve adopted a day by day process, doing what I can in the hours I’m awake and on my feet. That includes personal matters relating to taxes, estate planning, retirement funds, and more. The “more” includes household chores and cooking rather than writing and social media. AND continuing PT exercises at home.
 
I had wanted to restart my newsletter at the end of March, but didn’t quite focus on it enough to make it happen. For me, there’s a sense of being out of mind and body some days.
 
Coping with a change in the world around us is never easy. We are not always comfortable with change, especially sudden change. Even though life will return to the way it was, or almost, it is hard to accept the now as what some call the “new normal.” This isn’t the normal I want for my life. 
 
Yet penetrating through these days is a light. If we cling to that light, a special Light, we will find our way back to some semblance of what we used to call normal. Life may or may not go back to exactly what it was. My hope is that we’ll be something better than we were before. It’s possible. 
 
Spring flowers can be constant in coloring for two or three years. The next spring they may evolve into a different color. Isn’t it possible to hope we can change for the better?
 
Lam. 3:21-23, Scripture, hope
 
 
Featured image attribution: Phyllis Nagels on Unsplash